I first experienced the debilitating symptoms of autoimmune disfunction when I was studying abroad in Turks and Caicos in 2009. An eager 20 year old at the time, I started noticing that I couldn't hold things without experiencing pain in my wrists. The pain spread, and within weeks I was unable to walk, swim, or chew without considerable discomfort.
The local island doctor told me I was swimming too much -- the first of many frustrating and incorrect diagnoses. My symptoms worsened after I returned to the US, but I couldn't find a doctor who would take me seriously. For months, I traveled from physician to physician with no answers. All of my tests came back normal. I looked healthy. But I was suffering. Some doctors accused me of faking my symptoms in order to acquire prescription pain killers.
Finally, the pain got so bad that I collapsed and ended up in the Cottage Hospital emergency room. By some miracle, a doctor working in another part of the hospital heard about my strange symptoms and suspected that I might be experiencing some kind of autoimmune disfunction. After more tests, his suspicions were confirmed.
And yet, the doctors never gave me an official diagnosis. My symptoms didn't quite match up with any known disease like Rheumetoid Arthritis or Graves Disease. The most definitive answer I ever received was that I had some non-specific autoimmune disease similar to Lupus.
Despite the lack of clarity, I began working with the rhuematologist Dr. Wonuk Lee in Santa Barbara, CA. Through a holistic approach includung acunpuncture, diet, excercise, and pharmacueticals, my symptoms lessened.
Where I am Today
Although I'm much healthier today than I was in 2009, the nagging pain has never fully gone away. I experience painful inflammation on a daily basis. Some days my discomfort prevents me from getting out of bed in the morning.
The most challenging aspect of my condition is that I don't look sick. My friends and family see me as an active person: always hiking, surfing, and taking active jobs. The truth is, everything hurts. I'm constantly exhausted. But when I stop moving, the pain gets worse.
Experiencing autoimmune symptoms while looking normal from the outside has taken a toll on my psyche. I don't know how to talk about my pain, not even to the people closest to me. I'm a firm believer in positivity, and I don't want to be a bummer. Sometimes I allow myself to sink into anger and frustration. But I don't want to let that happen anymore. I want to fight.
Opportunity for Change
My environmental education job follows the public school calendar, so I'm off work from mid-June to mid-August. I've decided to stop ignoring my health problems do something a little more bold. I'm going to study yoga and Ayurvedic healing in Kerala, India.
I hope that through my search for healing I will raise awareness about autoimmune disorders generally. I meet people on a regular basis who have gone through experiences similar to my own. I want to share any solutions I find with outhers when I return.
I would be infinitely grateful for any financial assistance on my path to healing.
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